NASA'S partnership with private companies is transforming Kennedy Space Center into a multiuser spaceport
This July 14, 2017, photo shows the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, or C3PF, at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA says it may soon have the capability to send astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. (AP Photo/Alex Sanz), photo: AP/Alex Sanz
30 of August 2017 13:26:57
CAPE CANAVERAL – For the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, NASA says it may soon have the capability to send astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.Critical milestones are on the horizon for Boeing and SpaceX, the space agency's commercial crew partners: Flight tests of their spacecraft, including crewed missions, are planned for 2018.That's launched something of a "new space race" at the Kennedy Space Center, officials said."We have invested a lot as a center, as a nation into Kennedy Space Center to ready us for that next 50 years of spaceflight and beyond," said Tom Engler, the center's director of planning and development. "You see the dividends of that now, these commercial companies buying into what we're doing."[caption id="attachment_72217" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] This July 14, 2017, photo shows the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Photo: AP/Alex Sanz[/caption]The public-private partnership is transforming Kennedy Space Center into a multiuser spaceport. NASA is developing the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft for missions to deep space, including to Mars, leaving private companies to send people to low Earth orbit.Boeing is building the CST-100 Starliner, a spacecraft that will send astronauts to the space station, in a hangar once used to prepare space shuttles for flight. Three Starliners are in production, including one that will fly astronauts next year."If Mars is the pinnacle of Mount Everest, low Earth orbit is base camp. The commercial companies are the sherpas that haul things there," said Chris Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut and director of crew and mission operations at Boeing. "It opens up a whole new world of business."